Responding to Surprise
by Doug Floyd
The car pulls in the driveway. A man gets out and walk up slowly to the darkened house. He nervously shakes the keys in his hand and unlocks the door. Suddenly, a clamor of voices explode from the house, “Surprise.” Lights flick on, balloons bounce out, and people pop out from every nook and corner. A surprise like this can be exciting, embarrassing, and even a bit scary.
Have you ever been surprised?
Near my 40th birthday, Kelly finally pulled off a successful surprise party after several attempts. We were going to meet her sister and brother-in-law for lunch. I was hungry and could barely wait to eat. Since the restaurant was on the lake in Dandridge, we had to drive for a few minutes while my stomach growled.
Finally in the middle of nowhere, we arrived.
Dang. The place was full! “If there’s a long wait, let’s go somewhere else!” We walked in and suddenly I was surrounded by friends and family shouting, “Surprise!” It was a magical moment.
Surprises can bring joy, fear, and even laughter. Some surprises can change our whole world.
When I was four or five, my dad performed a magic show for us in the attic of our old house. I was transfixed. He picked up a milk pitched. Pour the milk into a newspaper cone and then showered us with confetti! The milk had vanished. He could make water stop in mid-air. He could vanish coins and pull them from my ear. Everything he touched seemed full of ancient mysterious power.
One day he taught me the magic. First, he simply showed me how to vanish coin. Then milk in newspaper. He taught and bought me all my magic tricks. I practiced and practiced and practiced.
By seven years old, I was performing my first show to neighbor kids on the front porch. For the next 15 years, magic was intertwined with almost every part of my life. My dad took me to New York City, so I could visit the old magic stores with the old magic men. One man made a ball jump into my hand while my fist was closed tight. Wow!
As I grew older, performing magic shows was second nature. I performed for family gatherings, birthday parties, and eventually at local stores. The love of magic put me onto the stage performing, and by the time I entered High School, I kept on performing in plays and musicals. Instead of writing book reports, I made films with my friend Vik.
Vik and I dreamed of moving to Hollywood. In the meantime, I entered college and studied Theatre major. All the while, I earned much of my income performing magic shows.
In 1984, I took my box of magic and headed north with our church class on a spring break mission trip. While most of the mission trips were in Daytona or Puerto Rico, our church always headed north into the last remainder of winter. I guess it was a “test of faith.” Upon arriving in Clio, Michigan, we worked in the church, shared the gospel door to door, and held evening services. I was part of a drama team that usually highlighted some spiritual truth in each of our skits. But I also had my box of magic.
One night the call came.
“Doug, we want you to preach the gospel while you’re performing your show at the Nursing Home tonight.”
I was prepared to entertain. Not to preach. As soon as our drama team finished, I was whisked away in a van to a nearby Nursing Home. As I stepped into the facility, the choir was finishing their last piece.
“Doug, you’re next.”
As I stepped out in front of the crowd, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And then came a surprise I could have never expected. I heard the Lord speak to me. For the next 45 minutes, he guided me, telling me what to say and showing me what to do.
This surprise change everything. I could never go back to before that night.
When I returned to Tennessee, I continued to hear Him. All through high school and into college, I had read the Bible virtually every day. And never heard anything. Now when I opened the Scripture, someone was talking to me. To me.
Jesus surprises all of us in different ways. My passion was performing. He stepped into that passion and opened my eyes to the fullness of His love in way I had never grasped.
Everything changed, and yet everything was the same.
My vision for films faded as I longed to preach. Even my beloved magic eventually slipped to the side. And yet, even I responded to the surprise of God, I was still the same person. The skills I learned in performing have been part of my whole ministry. My passion for theatre expressed itself in new ways. When Jesus encountered me, he met me, Doug. He didn’t make me Paul the Apostle.
When He encountered Saul on the road to Damascus. Paul was a Pharisee. Jesus spoke to Saul, and everything changed. Saul became Paul and began to preach the gospel. And yet, Paul became to the voice among the apostles who would write and teach and discuss how Torah changed as a result of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus completed the call of Paul as Pharisee into a true scribe who rightly discerned the word of truth.
When Jesus surprised me, He transformed me, and yet began fulfilling the Doug he had created me to be. In the grand surprise of His love, He is calls us to become who we are. But we only become who we are in relationship with Him. We were created in and through Christ, for “without Him nothing was made that is made.”
You were created in and through Christ. I was created in and through Christ. Paul was created in and through Christ. Thus, Athanasius reminds us that since He created us, He redeems. We are redeemed in and through Christ.
In the surprise of His love, He enters our world: our interests, our skills, our heritage. He is transforming it. But our lives are not all beautiful. There is ugliness. There is pain. There is confusion and doubt. In the struggle of living, we may win a prize, but we may lose a job. We may discover a new friend, but we may discover an untreatable illness. The surprises we encounter in living can weaken us.
Jesus enters into every part of our lives. Every part of my life. Every part of your life. It is only as “you” that you will fulfill what he created. When He surprises you with His love, He steps into every bit of your life past, present and future.
He is transforming us into His glory.
As I reflect upon that, I can write no more. I can only pause and bow before a love that is so wonderful, so amazing, so surprising.